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Practical advice if you and your partner have different sex drives

Practical advice if you and your partner have different sex drives

There are things you can do if you have differing sex drive

It’s unlikely that you and your partner have an identical sex drive at all times. If your needs and desires are consistently very different this can cause problems.

Last month, Gay Star News ran a poll. We asked ‘Do you and your partner have a similar sex drive?’

At the time of writing, over 1,500 people responded. The answers broke down as follows.

  • No, I want sex more often than they do (53%)
  • No, they want sex more often than I do (25%)
  • Yes, our sex drives are pretty similar (22%)

This demonstrates that three out of four couples experience a discrepancy in libido. If that includes you, take heart from that fact you are far from being alone!

‘Stress, tiredness, overwork and anxiety can all play a part’

Couples counselors agree that disagreements over sex and intimacy are common – whether between same-sex or opposite-sex couples.

‘Discrepant desire is a really common issue and one that presents in my consulting room a great deal,’ says clinical sexologist Dominic Davies.

There can be several reasons.

‘Some people naturally have a higher libido than their peers,’ says Davies. ‘These folk might supplement sex with more frequent masturbation to try and balance things out.

‘Some people have lower libido due to medications (anti-depressants being a common factor), or stress, tiredness, overwork and anxiety can all play a part. As can too much alcohol and too much junk food!

‘Some couples are mismatched in terms of what they find arousing and how they like to have sex. Couples can become bored with the routines and familiarity of how they have sex. This is again is something I see a lot.’

‘Sometimes sex gets withheld as a way of managing hostile, or hurt feelings’

He says that the roles between high and low sex drive can swap around, but that sometimes there is psychological rather than physical reason behind a drop in sex drive.

‘The low desire partner always controls the sex within a relationship. It’s a really common way in which power plays out in a relationship.’

‘Sometimes sex gets withheld as a way of managing hostile, or hurt feelings. The less powerful person might withhold sex as a way of maintaining some autonomy or self respect.’

Besides proving sexually frustrating for the partner with a higher sex drive, the lack of sex can also lead to a general lack of all intimacy. Attempts to kiss and cuddle can be rebuffed as the lowed-sex partner feels that any response might be interpreted as permission to take things further.

Showing willing

When it comes to advice, Davies stresses the importance of maintaining some form of intimacy. He believes simply showing willing can go a long way.

‘If you’re not feeling horny but your partner is, how about being willing to start and see how you get on? Are you willing to help them out? Giving a hand, holding them, kissing, etc.

‘Even if you don’t feel horny yourself, being willing to engage in the process with them might lead you to feeling aroused enough to want to more actively join in, or it will at least help maintain the intimacy between you.

‘For many couples, they can be afraid to begin sex, worrying that they may not become aroused and let their partner down and so they avoid all kinds of intimacy. This leaves a gap in their relationship where their partner might doubt whether they feel desired and loved.

‘So hugging, snuggling and kissing, even if it doesn’t lead to rampant sex, is important to maintain the intimacy.’

‘I have thought about leaving him… but I love him’

One GSN reader, who is in his early 50s and living in the US, knows only too well the frustration of mismatched libido.

‘I am married to a healthy man 22 years younger than me from Germany,’ he said.

‘With him being younger the sex should be great and all the time. It was in the beginning, but being 4,000 miles apart had a lot to do with it.

‘When he would come here, it was like a year’s worth of sex in a week. Now that we are married, here in the US all the time, it’s a week’s sex spread out over a year!’

He said the situation left him feeling unhappy and questioning.

‘For the first few months of us being together I slept spooned with him and my fingers just under his underwear band. Now I realize as we spoon he moves more on to his stomach – so no intimate touching. He says he gets aroused too much! I don’t know what being aroused too much means!

‘I have thought about leaving him… but I love him. And he says he wants no one else.’

Talk and listen to each other

Ash Rehn is a psychotherapist based in Sydney, Australia. He has worked with many gay couples. He says that communication is key, but also that we are not passive slaves to our libido.

‘Often people describe their desire for or interest in sex as if they were subjects of it rather than in the position of being able to do something about it. So ‘sex drive’ becomes something that drives them instead of an energy they can steer and navigate, to accelerate or apply the brakes to.

‘Moving up or down a gear might require some dialogue, not just talking but listening.’

Rehn doesn’t believe ‘individuals sharing a relationship are obligated to have sex with each other,’ but it’s important to be sensitive to each others emotions and needs.

‘Try to be open: leaving things unsaid can make things progressively worse’

Psychologist and psychotherapist Ronete Cohen adds that a discrepancy in libido does not mean you are necessarily incompatible.

‘Not wanting sex as much as your partner doesn’t have to lead to the end of the relationship. There are things you can do,’ she says.

‘Try and avoid situations where one partner experiences frequent rejection and the other feels pressurized. Communicate: talk and hear each other respectfully. Try to be open: leaving things unsaid can make things progressively worse.

‘Say what you like and what you don’t: intimacy, touch, sexual acts. Say where, when and how you’d like to experience things with your partner. See whether you can compromise.

‘Although this may mean each of you having sex at a frequency that isn’t necessarily ideal, it’s important that you’re both comfortable with what you’re doing and there’s no coercion.

‘You don’t have to engage in the same things at the same time: for instance, one of you can be masturbating while the other holds or caresses you or watches.

‘There are also other options: opening up the relationship, or exploring other forms of intimacy like kink.

‘I know it isn’t easy,’ Cohen concedes. ‘If it’s all too much for you to resolve on your own, seek help from a therapist. There may be deeper issues behind the mismatched libido that need addressing.’